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SnakePit Round Table: AL Edition

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This week was the M. Night Shyamalan of baseball schedules: it started off well enough, but the ending basically sucked. Our panel discusses the road-trip through Kansas City and Detroit, who's been the best players in the NL to date, and whether the D-backs need to make improvements to contend in the second-half of the season.

A pretty good week, with a winning road-trip. We swept the Royals and held our own against the Tigers until the eighth inning on Sunday. Thoughts?

blue bulldog: At this point, I don’t know what to think. We’re getting to a stage in the season where contenders are separating themselves from non-contenders...and somehow the Dbacks have remained as contenders. I think our rotation and bullpen still have weak links, that makes us the weakest of the six contending teams (I count the Phillies, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Giants, and us). I’m not convinced though, that it’s in our best interest to make a trade to try to compete this year. We still have time though to see how the trade market develops, so I won’t prematurely shut down that option.

Jim: Much credit to Joe Saunders. I expected him to be the weak link this week, but he allowed three runs over 14 innings, which was great. Taking four of six was a great result, even though we were outscored 23-27 - mostly because it was 3-14 over the last two games. I think the last loss brought home what we all know but have kinda been ignoring - that the bullpen is still not as solid as it needs to be. If Putz is unavailable, there doesn’t seem to be a plan B. At least not one which doesn’t involve using Aaron Heilman in high-leverage situations.

snakecharmer: That Royals series was nice, it was as though we were back to "normal". I wasn’t surprised that we lost facing Verlander, it seems like everyone does. But it would’ve bee nice to perform better this afternoon, both on offense and pitching. It stings now, but I think it was a positive week.

ZM: Well, most people expected the Tigers series would be a challenge, since they’re a pretty good team and we didn’t have Kennedy or Hudson in the series.  It’s hard to be disappointed with the end results, even if the performance at the end of the eighth inning was depressing.  But overall, a 4-2 roadtrip through the American League qualifies as a "good week."

Shoe: I guess the Tigers were just too much for us. Thats a really good lineup.  4-2 roadie nothing to complain about, but would like to see them beat good teams.

We’ve reached the half-way point in the season. Waving some fingers in the air [like we just don’t care...], and doubling totals to date. Put the following in order of how likely they are to happen?

  • A) Justin Upton bats .300 for the year
  • B) Chris Young hits 30 homers
  • C) Daniel Hudson reaches 19 wins [giving him a half for his last first-half start]
  • D) J.J. Putz saves 40 games.

blue bulldog: Upton bats .300 for the year > Young hits 30 HR > Putz saves 40 games > Hudson reaches 19 wins.

Jim: I think D) is almost a given at this point, assuming he stays healthy. This team seems to play a lot of close games, and I don’t see that changing. Upton has got his groove on, and right now, it’s hard to see him getting his groove on the rest of his his career. Young seems to be getting under too many balls, and while I’d like to see Hudson reach 19 wins - a mark we’ve only seen once in Arizona since 2002 - I think he’ll end at 16 or 17.

snakecharmer: D, C, A, B. I did that before I looked at blue and Jim’s responses. Really? You think 19 is that far out of reach for Hudson? Hmmm. CY hasn’t shown home run power lately, I think he’s too streaky to get to 30. JJ’s 40 saves would be fabulous, and since we don’t seem to win by large margins... but he needs to actually, y’know, be available to close.

ZM: D, B, A, C.  I don’t think any of them other than Putz saving 40 games is all that likely.  CY has always had the power to hit 30 homers (had 32 in 2007), so I’ll say that’s next.  Unless Justin Upton has turned some sort of corner, I don’t think he’s quite ready to hit .300 over the course of the season (I have him in the .280-.290 range for now).  And pitcher wins are too variable to even guess at.

Shoe: D, B, A, C.

Who gets the Cy Young, MVP and Rookie of the Year in the NL at this mid-way point?

blue bulldog: Matt Kemp for MVP. The offensive numbers are just ridiculous, particularly since he hits in Chavez Ravine. And he plays CF (albeit poorly). And for that, I think he’ll win the Gold Glove as well. Roy Halladay is a no-brainer Cy Young to me. I didn’t think it would be possible, but he’s taken his game to a whole new level. Going to be a career-high K-rate if he can keep this up. Still keeping the walks low. And still pitching a lot of complete games. The NL Rookie of the Year isn’t quite as clear. I guess I have to go with Danny Espinosa for now.

Jim: Jair Jurrjens for Cy Young. Ten wins and a 2.07 ERA. That’s getting it done. I don’t think he’ll sustain the numbers through the second-half, but he’s been the best for me. Can’t argue with Kemp for MVP, even as the Dodgers go down the gurgling vortex of suck. When was the last time the MVP played on a last-place team? Rookie? No award yet. There hasn’t been anyone who has impressed me enough to vote.

snakecharmer: I really haven’t paid attention to most of the rest of the league to be able to make any guesses yet.

ZM: I agree with the majority on Kemp.  If he keeps this up, the MVP is his to lose.  Right now, the pick for the Cy Young is Jurrjens, since he has the same record as Halladay with lower ERA.  But I think Halladay has a much better second half than Jurrjens to claim the prize.

Shoe: Halladay/Braun/Danny Espinosa

Does the team need to make any moves to remain competitive in the second-half of the season? If so, what?

blue bulldog: Crap, sorta talked about this above. But we desperately need another starter and if we got another bullpen arm, I’d be a lot more confident about our bullpen. If we go for a bullpen arm, I want a pretty stellar one. If we go for a starter though, I think a mid-late rotation guy would be enough.

Jim: In some ways, this team has so many holes, I’m surprised we are actually competing - I think the failings of the Giants and Rockies have a lot to do with that. First-base, third-base (now Ryan Roberts has returned to earth), left-field, second-base, the back of the rotation, the bullpen. How did we get here? This is not my beautiful house! </davidbyrne>

That said, the current collection did get us this far, and I don’t want us to do anything that could damage the future for the illusion of competing here. I’d maybe take on another team’s salary dumps to address some of those issues, particularly rotation-wise, but the last thing I want is another Dan Haren trade.

snakecharmer: More solid pitching - bullpen, preferably, or a #5, and maybe an extra bat for first or third base.

ZM: Pitching, pitching, pitching.  We pretty much know what have from four out of five members of the rotation: Kennedy and Hudson are solid, Saunders and Duke are adequate.  Collmenter’s the wild card, and he could settle anywhere from the middle of the rotation to triple-A.  

With that in mind, the team seems to have two options.  If they don’t believe in Collmenter in the rotation, they should pick up another starter (Hiroki Kuroda sounded good to me), that might bump Collmenter back to the bullpen.  If they do, flip a non-prospect or two for a solid reliever and make do with what they have.  If they can get an additional bench bat, that’s great.  But if not, I don’t think it’s a huge consideration.

Shoe: They can stay competitive with the team they have and some minor league reenforcements. If they want to actually make the playoffs, AND do something when they get there, they need another decent starter, another good bullpen guy, and a clear upgrade at first base.

Wily Mo Pena delivered pretty much what you’d expect from a DH. What should the team do with him when interleague play ends?

blue bulldog: The last time I said he sucked, he ended up winning the game for us. That being said, I still think he’s not good enough to be an everyday starter. His defense is also supposed to be atrocious. Still, I think he has a niche as a power bat off the bench. Adds some oompf to a bench that really needs some oompf.

Jim: Seems incredibly vulnerable to breaking pitches, but as we saw, can clobber fastballs and mistakes a long way. Certainly a better option off the bench than Sean Burroughs, so might as well keep him around, though I don’t see him getting any starts.

snakecharmer: If Gibby says he doesn’t trust him in left, would he trust him at first? I say just pinch hitter extraordinaire, as Branyan was supposed to be.

ZM: The versatility of Bloomquist (and Blum, if he ever stops being injured) means that the team can carry one guy on the bench who is used almost exclusively for pinch-hitting.  So I agree with ‘Charmer, have him be a pinch hitter, someone you bring off the bench at the ends of game to represent the tying run.

Shoe: Let him platoon with Parra if he keeps hitting.

Random Q: Come up with a slogan for the 2011 Diamondbacks.

blue bulldog: The 2011 Dbacks, better than the 2010 Dbacks.

Jim: Air-conditioning! Wi-fi! It’s just like watching the game on TV!

snakecharmer: We don’t always suck anymore, and sometimes we’re downright good.

ZM: The 2011 D-Backs: 30% less torturous than the 2011 Giants.

Shoe: We're better than you thought we were.

Interleague play continues. Last home-stand before the break, against Cleveland, a day off Thursday, then off to Oakland. Can we get back into first place?

blue bulldog: Hellz yeah!

Jim: The Giants are on the road, and face the Cubs (meh) and Detroit, so could easily go 4-3 there. If so, we’d need to go 5-1 to catch them up, which might be a stretch. On the other hand, I look forward to the genuinely new experience of rooting for the Cubs. I will be getting piss-drunk and arguing with anyone in the immediate area, to honor this occasion.

snakecharmer: We can if we play as well as we did against Kansas City but being in second means we need help, and I don’t like relying on that. Oh and they had better win in Oakland, at least on July 2nd, which is my birthday and fireworks night and thus I will be there and want a win plzkthx!

ZM: Can we? Yes.  Will we?  Ehhhh...  I have the Giants going 4-3 over that stretch, and I think we’ll go 4-2 and enter the break tied for first.  Which sorta counts, I guess.

Shoe: Sure....they could go 4-2 and the Giants go 2-4. It's just tough to live that way. Losing all those games to the Giants really hurt.